PHOENIX — They answered a call to foster dogs, but for at least a dozen families around Arizona, that process has been filled with expenses and little communication. Now, the good deed has turned into a frustrating experience.
In April, Ashley Stockton's family welcomed Stella, an eight-month-old Doodle whose litter had just been rescued.
"They were filthy, they were matted, they stunk," recalled Stockton. "It was so sad, they were cramming themselves into a corner and were huddled up on top of each other. I was under the assumption Pawfect Match was a rescue, and that I would foster her. I was excited because they would provide the training and help so I thought this was a perfect situation."
Pawfect Match is a Mesa pet service whose website says they foster, train, transport and rehome pets.
The family provides a loving home and lots of attention. The foster agency provides funds for vet visits, medicines, training and other expenses. Except for some, the experience has been far from great.
"The past four months have been very stressful to say the least," said Laura Studebaker, who is also fostering a pup from that same litter. She says something hasn't felt right with the situation.
"We've spent hours upon hours trying to figure out what's going on and being left in the dark," she said.
What started as a Facebook request from Pawfect Match's Renee Wierz, has turned into a litany of unanswered requests and unpaid-for expenses. They say that Wierz told them all expenses would be handled, but that hasn't happened.
"We have this dog who has fear, extreme fear and anxiety," said Studebaker. "She needs medication, we've asked for it. She was able to get a five-day supply. She has not been able to get her prescription filled after that."
"She told a bunch of the fosters that we couldn't take the dogs to the vet," Stockton said. "Because she said we didn't own them. I finally said you know what? This is neglect and abandonment on Renee's part and we took Stella to our vet."
Stockton also says since she's never rehabilitated a dog that had experienced trauma, she asked Wierz for information about training.
"When I realized the training wasn't happening because she wasn't responding to any basic texts, I ended up reaching out to the dog trainer we used with our other dog," she said.
Now four months and hundreds of dollars later, they say the families involved want answers.
"This dog is in all essence mine," said Stockton. "I have paid for everything for this dog, I have all the papers, the receipts."
"Reaching out to her several times, she was often out of town, I'm working, I'll call you back later," said Studebaker.
Bretta Nelson with the Arizona Humane Society says this isn't standard practice. She adds usually organizations will try and make it as easy as possible for the foster families, and will pay for things like food, supplies and medical care.
"And they should be able to share records with you, medical records, intake profiles, their age and things like that," she said.
With no dog profiles, no medical records and a lack of communication, Stockton and Studebaker say the situation isn't adding up. Especially after they say Wierz reached out asking about adoption plans. Because even though the women say they were told up front there would be a fee to adopt, there's still confusion over why it's so much.
"I asked her if she could give us an itemized breakdown of the cost of the dogs," said Stockton. "She's saying it's $1,200 and we don't understand why a rescue is charging that much given we paid for everything."
12News reached out to Wierz multiple times for an interview. She gave a statement via text saying:
"Working with foster dogs to get them adopted takes money. We wish we could give foster dogs away to good families for free. Realistically, that is not feasible. We pay for vet bills. We have all the dogs vetted, another expense. We pay for transport and we provide groomers. You are welcome to contact the groomers of all the dogs and all others involved."
She also directed us to speak with other groomers she's worked with and said "fosters not wanting to pay the fees is the real story." 12News again asked for an interview and have not received a response.
"We are willing to pay for the dogs," said Studebaker. "For us though, we just really want to make sure other people don't go through the heartache and stress and general horrible situation we've been through. She cares more about the money than she cares about the dogs."
"I don't care if Renee wants to keep rescuing dogs," said Stockton. "But she can't operate the way she's doing it. She's taken advantage of people and charging people exorbitant prices. I would ask her one thing, can you give us clear answers? I want transparency, I want to understand what's going on."
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